Friday, June 25, 2004

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Two conservative groups have been phoning people across Oregon this week, urging them to attend Ralph Nader’s convention today and sign a petition to place the consumer advocate on Oregon’s presidential ballot.

The groups make no bones about their goal — to draw votes away from Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and help President Bush win this battleground state in November.

“We disagree with Ralph Nader’s politics, but we’d love to see him make the ballot,” said Russ Walker of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group best known for its opposition to tax increases.

The Oregon Family Council also has been working the phones to boost attendance at Mr. Nader’s event — with the idea that it could help Mr. Bush this fall.

“We aren’t bashful about doing it,” said Mike White, the group’s director. “We are a conservative, pro-family organization, and Bush is our guy on virtually every issue.”

Even if it comes from an unusual source, Mr. Nader can probably use the help, given that this will be his second attempt to win a spot on Oregon’s ballot.

In April, Mr. Nader held an evening rally in Portland that was intended to attract 1,000 persons needed to sign petitions to put him on the ballot. Only 741 showed up.

The 70-year-old consumer activist plans to travel to Portland for the second convention, which will be held at a local high school.

The move by the Republican-leaning groups to boost attendance at Mr. Nader’s miniconvention is legal.

State law says that for Mr. Nader to qualify for the ballot as independent candidate, he need only draw 1,000 registered votes — regardless of their party affiliation — together in one place to sign petitions for him.

The head of Mr. Nader’s Oregon campaign, Greg Kafoury, reported no contact with the two conservative groups that have been calling people this week. But he said he is not bothered by their actions.

If Mr. Nader qualifies for Oregon’s ballot, polls suggest that he could be a factor in whether Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush wins the seven electoral votes of this swing state in November.

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